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CP, 2014, N5, pp. 91-102. ISSN 2014-6752. Girona (Catalunya). BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French
politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).
Recibido: 19/12/2014 - Aceptado: 22/12/2014

HYBRID STRATEGIC IDENTITIES AS GENDERED RESOURCES IN


FRENCH POLITICS (MARTINE AUBRY AND MARINE LE PEN)
Author: BAIDER, Fabienne
Associate Professor University of Cyprus Nicosia (Cyprus) fabienne@ucy.ac.cy

Abstract
Many researchers such as Sineau (2001), Bertini (2002), Achin
et al (2007) have been for years denouncing the male norm or
the male political order in French politics. They also argue that
explanations for such a gendered field should not be based on
status differences between men and women but should focus on
how dominant relationships differentiate male behavior and
female behavior in politics. In this paper, we examine how, in
their 2012 presidential campaigns, Martine Aubry (a socialist
leader) and Marine Le Pen (an extreme-right party leader)
adopted traditionally masculine strategic identities, and how
these were portrayed in the French press. Both female politicians were known for their toughness; however Aubry was
noted as being emotional, while Le Pen was seen to emphasize
family life. They embodied a femininity with a twist. In order

to examine the reception of such hybrid personas in journalistic


discourse, we examine articles published in the French mainstream press, using quantitative and qualitative approaches. We
point out the shared and different strategies and conclude on the
periperformativity on the part of the newspapers as far as these
gender acts are concerned.

Key words
French politics, masculinity, Aubry, Le Pen, androgyny, periperformativity.

1. Introduction
The 2000 parity law in France aimed at rejuvenating
and feminizing the political arena; it also ensured a
balance of the sexes in the political bodies by
requiring electoral lists to be 50% female. Yet
women are poorly represented in the French political
space; for instance, female politicians have always
been (and are still) extremely under-represented in
the Parliament and the Senate, their numbers even
lower than other Latin countries, a point which rules
out the "culturalist" explanation of Achin and

Levque (2012). In fact, the French political sphere is


highly gendered. It is horizontally segregated, with
portfolios such as economy and agriculture typically
held by men, while women are usually
appointed/elected to deal with areas such as
education and culture. It is also vertically stratified,
with men holding the most prestigious and better
paid positions (Bertini 2002; Freedman 1997; Sineau
2007; Achin and Levque 2012).

2. Objectives
Even though the male political order is preserved, the
parity law in politics made it possible for a short
period (2000-2001) for women candidates to
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capitalize on deemed feminine qualities such as


proximity to the electorate or a more concrete
approach to politics (Achin et al. 2007; Allan & Mas

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

2007). A few years later (2007), S. Royal quite


openly played on femininity in her campaign. Indeed,
the Sarkozy and Royal candidatures were considered
to be somewhat exceptional cases: as French voters
and French commentators noted, Royal and Sarkozy
were candidates who, for the first time in French
political history, played on sexual stereotypes
(Gingras 1996; Achin & Dorlin 2008; Coulomb-Gully
2009, 2012). Yet, Royal was castigated for taking this

approach, while Sarkozy was celebrated for his virile


style. In the last presidential campaign (2012) things
seemed different: female candidates such as Martine
Aubry (then head of the Socialist party) and Marine
Le Pen (president of the Front National party) tended
to use the opposite strategy, displaying an obvious
physical and behavorial masculinity. In this article
we will examine how this reversal is translated in the
journalistic discourse.

3. Methodology
For each politician, we look at a corpus of articles
focused on both candidates, published during the
period March - July 2011-- a time when the general
presidential campaign was underway and before the
socialist primaries were held (in which M. Aubry lost
in October 2011). We built the corpus from six
different daily newspapers (regional and national
newspapers, representing a wide political spectrum
from left to right). The six newspapers we examined
were the following: four national dailies-- Libration,
Le Monde, Le Figaro, La Croix, and two regional
dailies-- Ouest-France and Est-Rpublicain; from
these, twenty articles were selected for each
candidate (a total of 120 articles for each)1, making a
total of 59, 909 words for Martine Aubry and 61,
784 words for Marine Le Pen. The software
Termostat (Lesage et al. 1993; Drouin 2003) was
used to examine both the most frequent and the most
specific lexical categories for each name under study.
More precisely, we worked with the most frequent
collocations found in the context of the Noun Phrase
under investigation (such as primaire socialiste =
socialist primary) and the most specific collocations
for that NP (such as secretaire du parti socialiste for
Martine Aubry). The specificity parameter is an
important dimension in corpus linguistics, and is
defined as the calculation of the difference between
the relative frequencies of the linguistic items in the
analysis and reference corpora2: it is thus the
difference in frequency of lexical items in our data in
relation to the reference corpus (28 million words)

from Le Monde (2002). To appraise the ideological


dimension of the texts under study, we restrict our
analysis to the lexical marking (collocations,
specificities and frequencies of lexical units) based on
earlier studies (Banks 2007; Bednarek 2008;
Blumenthal 2002; Sinclair 2004; Tutin et al. 2006;
Van Dijk 2006).
Qualitatively, analysis of the collocational properties
of the nouns associated with the politicians will reveal
the newspapers value and belief system. Analyzing
the paragraphs where the NP of each candidate
appears in the article will show us the contextual
environment of the lexical units and collocates under
investigation. We worked on what is known as Key
Word in Context (KWIC) where the noun of each
candidate appears in the article. This contextual
environment will give the semantic prosody
(Bednarek 2008) of the discourse in which the most
frequent or more specific lexical units are embedded;
the semantic prosody in turn will enable to us assess
whether the evaluation was positive or negative.

See Baider & Jacquey (2014) for methodology and corpus


description.
2
TermoStat
(http://linguistech.ca/TermoStat_E_TUTCERTT_I_PartI)

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

4. Political resources and gendered identity


Stereotypes of femininity and masculinity are not
simply images; they are formulations that are
internalized, incorporated, embodied, and with
practical consequences (Achin et al. 2007, p. 17;
Allan & Mas 2007). Politicians, for instance, often
adopt strategic identities linked to their gender.

4.1. Strategic identities of candidates


and sexual personas
Of the resources available to politicians, the most
important for political success are economic, cultural
and social. These resources can be divided into two
categories: the private persona (personality,
education, occupation, social origin, political
experience); the collective persona (political brand,
engagement, associative militancy, etc.). However,
for men, gender is a kind of symbolic capital, just as
the body is a symbolic resource for women in politics
(Achin et al. 2007, p. 71).
Such resources depend on the political contexts in
which they are mobilized. Therefore, studies focused
on French politics should recognize the domination
relationship, which differentiates and prioritizes male
behavior over female behavior (this will be discussed
later in section1.3). As a matter of fact, in French
politics women have been pushed into peripheral
political markets (Achin & Levque 2012; CoulombGully 2012), and therefore have great difficulty
making it to presidential elections, although Martine
Aubry, Sgolne Royal and Marine Le Pen were all
successful in this.
Choosing a strategic identity in order to win is
understandably a difficult dilemma for French female
politicians since political roles have been historically
defined by their exclusion and have always been
embodied by men. As a matter of fact, playing on
femininity as a resource is always dangerous in
politics: this resource is fragile and can lead to a
negative outcome (Achin et al. 2007, 57). Indeed
playing on femininity is to risk being stigmatized for
it: women who choose to portray themselves as
compassionate and/or close to the electorate will be
deemed mother-like, not a positive quality for the
tough life of politicians. They are continually
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threatened by a "salto stigma"-- a reversal of their


intent that results in disqualifying labels, typically
labels like Passionaria or Madonna (Coulomb-Gully
2012; Bertini 2002). As we will see in section 1.2, S.
Royal is a good example of the phenomenon.
However, women who present male qualities run
other risks. Efficient and distant, they will be said to
be cold and bossy, maybe frigid, certainly inhuman
(Freedman 1997, p. 204; Allan & Mas 2007). This
double bind is a constant in political life: women are
described, at the same time and depending on
circumstances, as unsympathetic power-mongers but
prone to emotional outbursts; too tough and brusque
but weak because of a tendency to negotiate. The
double bind goes hand-in-hand with a gendered
interpretation of actions and emotions. For instance,
a display of anger can be seen as a sign of status in
men (it shows sincerity), but for women it can signal
incompetence (they cannot keep their cool) (Holmes
2004).

4.2. Previous works on French politics,


gendered identities and journalistic
discourse: Royal vs.Sarkozy
A case in point is the 2007 presidential elections.
Many analysts view S. Royals appearance in the
elections as the first time that femininity and
masculinity were used as symbolic capitals to win a
powerful political position. In the campaigns leading
up to the election, analysts suddenly recognized the
importance of gender in the political game and the
way in which gender affected the electorates choice.
Our own research on the 2007 presidential elections
(Baider 2009; Baider & Jacquey 2010, 2014) has
suggested that by focusing on the noun phrases (NPs)
referring to female and male politicians in journalistic
discourses, we might understand each politicians
linguistic portrait. This linguistic portrait in turn
would influence the electorate. We manually
examined two corpuses of 19, 000 words for Royal
and for Sarkozy taking into consideration the terms of
address, the most commonly used verbs referring to
the politicians, and their syntactic and semantic
functions, as these were found in the three French
daily newspapers Liberation, Le Monde and Le

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

Figaro. We completed this qualitative study with a


quantitative study on a bigger scale, with a corpus of
approximately 60, 000 words for each politician.
Using
semantic analysis software (SEMY by
Grzesitchak et al. 2007; Reutenauer et al. 20103) that
used the definitions in the Trsor de la langue
franaise informatise (TLFi), we established the
semantic fields defining each candidate (Royal and
Sarkozy).
According to these data, the female politician (Royal)
was portrayed as more on the defensive than on the
attack. She was also seen to relate to the public to
promote her ambitions, but not to present a detailed
programme. On the other hand, Sarkozy was
presented as a fighter who put his plans into motion,
an important quality for a future head of state. In
order to examine the actual causality of each
protagonist, we examined the syntactic and semantic
functions of each name in the journalistic discourse.
The results supported a dichotomy between the noun
Sarkozy functioning more often as a subject and an
agent than Royal. These lexical and grammatical
choices weakened Royals position as presented in the
discourse (Baider & Jacquey 2010). These results
corroborate Achin et al.s 2012 analysis that Royals
gendered strategy, emphasizing that her role as a
mother and her womanhood could not be seen as a
positive difference in the actual political context.
That strategy may have weakened her position as a
potential leader.
Also noted by political observers was the different
journalistic treatment of the two candidates
gendered strategy: if both politicians, Sarkozy and
Royal, played on the continuum of masculinity /
femininity, with Sarkozy wanting to appear as a
sensitive man (Fassin 2008), there was little note of
Sarkozy`s gendered strategy, while Royals made the
(negative) headlines.
The most important is that for the first time, and
under the Fifth Republic, sex and gender were used
as obvious political resources. Also obvious was that
the female politician suffered from this while the male
candidate profited.
3

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Only available at the University Lorraine- ATILF

4.3. Back to an all male-affair: 2012


presidential elections
The 2012 presidential campaign was back to an allmale event, including the sexual scandal of the
Dominique Strauss-Khan affair and the candidates
playing on various masculinities, i.e., the alleged
softness of F. Hollande and the paternalistic virility of
Sarkozy. However Achin & Levque (2012) suggest
that these male politicians may have used femininity
by mediation. They did not put forward their wives,
as is nowadays often the case4, but they chose as main
female spokespersons young, brilliant and goodlooking women: N. Vallaud-Balkacem for Francois
Hollande and N. Kosciusko-Morizet for Nicolas
Sarkozy. These women endorsed the traditional
political division of labor: communication and
appearance
In the same presidential campaign, unsuccessful but
noted female candidates such as Martine Aubry
(socialist) and Marine Le Pen (Extreme-right) seemed
to have played on the reversal of the stigma that
Royal had suffered as mentioned previously. They
displayed an obvious masculinity in appearance and
behavior (wearing trousers, tough talking, etc.). They
even accused their adversaries of having qualities
which were typically feminine: Marine le Pen labeling
the opponent as illogiques (irrational) and Marine
Aubry mocking Franois Hollande as being `la gauche
molle` (the softie).

See, for instance, Wives becoming strategists for politicians,


in
2014
Lok
Sabha
Elections,
Instablogs Shimla: Athena Information Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (Apr
11, 2014)

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

5. Aubry and Le Pen: Femininity with a twist?


5.1. Aubrys political persona
Known for her bad temper, Martine Aubry commonly
refers to her colleagues by a variety of different bird
names, and has labeled most of them as political zeros, F. Hollande included. She has also remarked that
Hollande had no punch, and was la gauche molle
(spineless leftist), before he won the presidency. Her
judgment is known to be pitiless and her criticism very
sharp:
(elle est) rpute pour son mauvais caractre () les murs
ont souvent rsonn des noms d'oiseaux dont elle affuble ses
camarades du parti. Martine Aubry a le jugement svre et
la critique acre. Peu de socialistes trouvent grce ses yeux,
beaucoup sont jugs nuls ((She is) known for her bad
temper () the walls often resonated with bird nicknames
that she bestowed on many of her "comrades" within the
party. Martine Aubry makes harsh judgments and she is quite
pointedly critical. Few socialists are spared her criticism, and
she considers many to be "zeroes".) (Le Monde, 24.05.2011)

However she is also famous for her efficiency, determination, and courage. A hard worker, extremely
well-organized and determined, she tends to be a perfectionist and is demanding of her co-workers: C'est une
perfectionniste, elle est trs exigeante, trs angoisse. (Le
Monde 24.05.2011). She is direct and frank, but she
will apologize if she understands she has gone too far:
Elle est directe, trop franche peut-tre, mais lorsqu'elle s'en
aperoit, elle sait s'excuser. (Le Monde 24.05.2011) The
conclusion is that she is a resilient woman: c'est une
femme de caractre. (Le Monde 24.05.2011)
However, highlighting her masculine qualities meant
that she was open to much criticism. Indeed, because
she is demanding and does not mince her words, she
has been nick-named Elena, after Elena Ceaucescu;
suspicions circulated regarding her sexuality, and it
was rumored that she was a lesbian although she was
married twice and still is. Her lack of femininity was
often commented upon. The political identity of
female candidates does not escape sexualization: this
may be a conscious decision made by political advisors;
a slant chosen by journalists and cartoonists; a slander
spread by political opponents.
As a result, her advisors suggested that she reinvent
herself, and use her femininity as her symbolic capital.
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For example, she was advised to say, even if it were


not true, that she wanted to be the Mayor of Lille in
order to spend more time with the person she loves.
This strategic characterization aimed to convince the
electorate that she was indeed a heterosexual woman.
It was also, especially for female voters, a way to show
that she was leading a simple life (not true either) and
could therefore share in the problems of the electorate
(Achin 2007 et al., p.72). This strategy was actually
not a choice but a response to articles that had
disparaged her personally. Maybe this can also explain
why her biographies record her, at least as far as her
semi-public persona is concerned, as surprisingly
prone to tears (Achin et al., 2007, p. 59). As the Minister of Employment and Solidarity in 1997, she was
also said to have collapsed on her desk once back in her
office after long and exhausting negotiations. Those
instances of tears and apparent weakness are, according
to one biographer, an illustration of her internal debates, her hidden sensitivity and her fanciful temperament:
On connait galement tant cela fait dsormais partie de son
personnage (semi)-public les crises de larmes de Martine
Aubry. Mise en rcit par ses biographes autoriss, sa sensibilit et sa fantaisie (naturellement fminines bien sr) viennent en quelque sorte compenser et humaniser laustrit
apparente de la ministre. (Also known now-- since they seem
to be part of her (semi) -public persona are Martine Aubrys
tears. As narrated by her authorized biographers, her
'sensitivity' and her 'fanciful temperament' (naturally
'feminine' of course) somehow compensate and humanize the
Minister's outward harshness) (Achin et al., 2007, 59).

She was to suffer from showing her emotional side.


During the 2012 socialist primaries the press described
her as tough and exacting, although too emotional,
angry, and therefore too weak for office.

5.2. Le Pens political persona


Often referred to as the daughter of Le Pen, Marine
Le Pen aims at "de-demonizing" her far-right party to
make it more presentable /palatable to voters on the
traditional right; she denounces the label extreme
right for the FN. Taking great care of her image, she
may have already transformed the FN into a populist
people's party: since the FN became the first party in
France during the 2014 European elections, it may be

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

interpreted as a successful enlargement of the voters


spectrum for the FN.
Despite being tall and athletic, she presents a femininity tailored to the working-class electorate (Achin &
Levque 2012). For the first time in France, the
extreme-right has managed to invent a politically
feminine persona. Indeed, on forums and blogs she is
often referred to by her first name, Marine, and her
followers are called Marinists`. Moreover, as Shields
(2013, pp. 190-191) and others have noted, the gender and the life choices of the new FN leader (twicedivorced and living out of wedlock) are radical changes
in the leadership.
Her softer approach in politics has influenced the FN
stance since 2002 (Shields 2007, 315), and on many
sensitive social issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, gender parity and anti-Semitism. This enabled
her to make gains with female voters, a vote that long
eluded her father. Both her personality and her
speeches are reassuring: she willingly recalls her own
suffering (because of her childhood as Le Pens daughter, a provocative politician), and she focuses on her
compassion for the poor and the marginalized.

However, as Boudillon (2005, p. 80) noted, her physique and her speech, which are both very similar to
her fathers style, do not match traditional standards of
femininity. Indeed, virility and populism are often
associated in descriptions of Marine Le Pen (LExpress,
17.10.2002), an ethos which appears to constitute the
populist persona of far-right leaders. Not afraid of
being vulgar for the sake of being heard (La France est
devenue la catin du Qatar = France has become Qatar`s
whore) may further evoke a "male femininity". Going
even further, she accuses others of hysteria ( the political system and the media), claiming to be the Voice
of Reason, contradicting the stereotype of women
being irrational.
Tears after a long day at work (Martine Aubry) or an
eternal smile (Marine Le Pen), represent both typical
feminine behavior. Both were also chaperoned,
which is often necessary for a woman to be credible as
a politicians: Aubry and Le Pen benefitted from the
association/protection of their political fathers. The
two women seem to build their legitimacy by playing
on their natural manly aspect while trying at the same
time to soften their personality. These language styles
and physical appearances confuse genres and genders
for both Marine Le Pen and Martine Aubry. How has
this `gender trouble fared in the journalistic discourse?

6. Linguistic findings: Comparing frequencies and specificities


6.1. Martine Aubry: a hybrid persona

for male candidates whatever their party.

For Martine Aubry, our investigation found the following most frequent lexical items for the period MarchJuly 2011 in the six newspapers: candidat candidate,
secrtaire secretary,5 projet project, primaire primaries, parti Party, candidature candidacy, socialiste
socialist, sondage opinion poll.

However, when considering the most specific terms for


the candidate, we obtain the following list: maire
mayor,6 appel call, avenir future, bureau office,
convention convention, employ employment, entourage, envie to feel like, jeune young, jeunesse youth,
leader, patronne female boss, porte-parole spokesperson, programme, rassemblement gathering, respect
respect, tnor, unit unity.

All these lexical units are related to the general domain


of politics (project, candidacy, party, primaries, socialist, etc.). They do not differentiate Aubrys persona,
but they show that political resources are the most important (i.e., frequent) lexical items found for female
politicians. And in fact, we find the same lexical items
5

Martine Aubry was the First Secretary of the Socialist Party


i.e. the leader of the party.

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In the specific terms we can identify the main axes of


Aubrys campaign: work (emploi), especially for the
youth (jeune, jeunesse); respect, which symbolizes her
campaign motto: a republic based on respect for the law
6

Martine Aubry was at the time and still is the Mayor of


Lille.

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

and for people; unity, and gathering, which refer to


her campaign message that she was able to unite the
party behind her and has proven to be successful as
Mayor of Lille.
On the negative side, however, we note the word
patronne female boss, manageress. The word itself is
unusual in the context of politics, since it signals familiarity and a possible lack of respect. Indeed, the
Trsor de la langue franaise, the French equivalent of the
Oxford English dictionary, states that the word can be
used as a synonym for 1. a boss, someone giving orders and 2. a manager of a brothel (patronne de maison
close, de maison de rendez-vous). We can note that the
male form of the word, patron, was only used twice in
the data for male politicians, even when referring to
Sarkozy who was known to be bossy. In Aubry`s case
she was repeatedly referred to as the patronne --27
times in fact. Although journalists could also have used
the male form, as a generic masculine and a common
usage for positions of prestige, they never did. The
masculine form, patron, is free of sexual innuendo and
would be seen as less colloquial than the feminine
form.
Moreover, the adjectives characterizing Aubry do not
describe feminine traits, as this might be expected with
the word patronne; they define the qualities typical of
male candidates (distant, authoritarian, etc.) (Le Bart
2009):
Trop techno, trop loin des gens, trop autoritaire, trop brutale dans
son management, trop parisienne: Martine Aubry est l'objet de
toutes les critiques (Too technology inclined, too far away from ordinary people, too authoritarian, too brutal in her management,
too Parisian : Martine Aubry is the topic of all criticism). (our
italics) (Le Monde, 24.05.2011)

The discrepancy between the presss use of the


feminine patronne and their more masculine description
of Aubry reminds us of the androgyny noted in her
portrait (section 3.1): she is a female boss but she behaves like a male manager, i.e., she is sexed (as a
woman) but she does not have the social attributes of
one, nor the expected behavior. Actually the problematic hybridity of her persona is explicitly mentioned
several times:
() cette mi-Mre Teresa, mi-despote, ni ange ni dmon,
entre la tentation de la compassion et celle de l'autoritarisme

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. (this half-Mother Teresa, half bully, neither angel nor devil,


between the temptation of compassion and of
authoritarianism) (Le Monde, 13.06.2011)

This could be positive: away with the feminine weaknesses, and in with the masculine strength. However
the opposite happens. Both the female noun (with the
derogatory connotation of patronne) and the masculine
adjectives (brutal, authoritarian, etc.) describe her in a
negative light. And it is seen as disconcerting:
Tantt empathique, tantt misanthrope, hsitante et prpare, mfiante et entoure, affective et brutale, gnreuse et
acerbe () ses adversaires ne savent quel personnage affronter.
(Sometimes sympathetic, sometimes misanthropic, hesitant
and prepared, suspicious and surrounded by friends,
emotional and brutal, generous and sharp (...) her opponents do
not know which character to confront). (our italics) (Le Monde,
28.06.2011)

These descriptions could point towards instability of


temperament and inconsistency in her actions, both
very serious drawbacks for a potential leader, and both
also labeled as typically female problems.

6.2. Marine Le Pen: the daughter of


For Marine Le Pen, the most frequent lexical items
identified for the period March-July 2011 in the six
newspapers are the following: tour voting turn, droite
right wing, candidat, parti party, prsident, sondage
opinion poll, lection, vote, canton canton, administrative district, voix vote. Just as for M. Aubry, these
most frequent lexical units describe the political domain (election, vote, candidate, party, etc.) and profile
of the candidate (right wing, president of the party),
hence the typical political resources of candidates.
However the most specific units reveal a similar disrupted/ disruptive picture to that found for Aubry,
i.e., a gendered dimension: pre father, immigration,
gens people, ide idea, institut, enqute survey,
classe, rpublique, peur fear, pousse push, protectionnisme, stratgie, fille daughter, lacit secularity, alliance, internet, islam, mondialisation globalization, identit identity, ouvrier worker, prfrence nationale.
The expressions, national preference, protectionism, and globalization, evoke her political strategy to
protect the French against multiculturalism and global

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

corporations. The words, Islam, fear, identity and


secularity, very clearly make reference to the new
focus of the National Front: the danger that she believes Islam presents to the French Republic. We note
the gendered terms, father and daughter, that lead
the list of specificities and relegate the female politician
Marine Le Pen to the private sphere. They mark her as
first and foremost the daughter of the former National
Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. As mentioned before,
it is quite common for female politicians to be the
daughter, the (ex-)wife, the mother or the friend of a
famous male public personality. This means that their
legitimacy can always be questioned: they are there
because of a connection with a man, not because they
deserve the position, not because they demonstrated
they have the qualities for the position. In a word, they
may be seen as illegitimate. In the case of Marine Le
Pen, the word father as her most frequently mentioned
specificity means that her identity is still extremely
dependent on Jean-Marie Le Pens aura, although she
tries desperately to escape this association.
As for the adjectives describing M. Le Pen, they are
very similar to those found for M. Aubry, as she is also
found to be determined and to deal with her party
with authority:
Dtermine concourir l'lection prsidentielle et accder
au pouvoir , elle imprime peu peu, avec autorit, sa marque
sur le mouvement qu'elle dirige depuis janvier. (Determined to
compete for the presidential elections and "to achieve
power", she makes her mark slowly, with authority, on the
movement she has been heading since January.)(our italics).
(La Croix, 29.04.2011)

There are other politicians who are equally determined-- for instance, F. Hollande has been described as
even more determined than Le Pen or Aubry. Yet he is
not described as affiliated with a father figure as Le
Pen is, or as emotional as Aubry is.
Moreover, the often vehement criticism of Marine Le
Pen is indirect and concerns her programme. The shift
to criticizing the female politicians is easy, since the
adjectives used (dangerous, excessive, outrageous,
ignorant, unrealistic, demagogic, authoritarian, irresponsible) can all be attributed to the leader:

avec l'outrance, l'ignorance avec l'irresponsabilit (Proposals


which are more unrealistic and dangerous one than the other,
which combine authoritarianism with statism, demagogy with
excess, ignorance with irresponsibility) (our italics). (La Croix,
29.06.2011)

Another feature common to both politicians is that


there is no atypical frequency in their data regarding
typical feminine attributes, attributes which could be
regarded as appealing or enabling the politicians to
create a seductive relationship with the electorate, as
S. Royal did in 2007.
For instance, the noun sourire smile, the adjective
souriant smiling and the verb sourire to smile are
only found 4 times for Aubry (for some male politicians it was found more often), and they were generally paired with another adjective that balance (again)
that feature with the candidates seriousness or austerity: dtermine, srieuse, mais souriante (determined, serious but smiling), un sourire tout en retenue (a selfcontrolled smile).
Like Thatcher, she is also described has having a regard
de dame de fer (the gaze of an iron lady) but with un
sourire de gamine (and the smile of a small girl), which
are actually rather contradictory.
As for Marine le Pen, only once was the noun sourire
used, and this was in a sentence discrediting her: despite her blond hair and her smile she could not hide
the same agenda as her father Le FN peut bien se cacher,
se masquer, prendre les traits avenants d'un sourire, d'une
blondeur, d'un prnom (the FN can hide and disguise
herself, take on the likeable features of a smile, of
blond hair and of a first name) (Le Figaro, 28.06.2011).
The paradigm fminine feminine, fminit femininity
was not recorded for either Aubry or Le Pen.
For both female politicians, therefore, we find typical
feminine traits as well as many more manly ones.
However, none of the descriptions offer the female
politicians an advantage; both women seem to present
the worst attributes of both genders. Indeed, this is
confirmed by studies in the corpus focused on the typical masculine trait of competence (Freedman 1997;
Olivesi 2012).

Propositions plus irralistes et dangereuses les unes que les autres, qui conjuguent l'autoritarisme avec l'tatisme, la dmagogie

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

6.3 You said competence?


In an earlier paper (Baider under revisions), we assessed the conceptual field of competence in political
discourse. The attributes found to be most necessary to
successful politicians were the following: leadership,
strategic, visionary, manager, experience, legitimate and
credible.
In the table below we list the frequency (number of
occurrences) of lexical units describing the qualities of
competence, as found in the context of each noun:
Table 1: Most frequent lexical units for both
names

First, we have to emphasize that it is usual not to have


many hits for the qualities themselves, since we commonly refer to them indexically; i.e., we would never
easily or straightforwardly find the phrase he is strategic,
but more often: he maneuvered brilliantly. For this study
we took into account only the lexical units listed above
in the table.
Secondly we can observe a polarisation between the
two candidates regarding competence.
Marine Le Pen is clearly referred to as a leader (and
mainly in the masculine form): le discours du leader d'extrme droite the discourse of the extreme right leader,
la prsence du leader d'extrme droite dans le trio de tte,
the presence of the extreme-right leader in the leading
trio; la leader d'extrme droite. She is also seen as a strategic politician, and successful for that matter, while
the context of the occurrences is generally positive:
conforte la stratgie offensive de sa prsidente Marine Le Pen
confirms the offensive strategy of its president Marine Le Pen.
(La Croix, 22.03.2011)
mthodiquement, Marine Le Pen impose ses choix, ses hommes, sa stratgie et son projet Methodically, Marine Le Pen
imposes her choices, her men, her strategy and her project.
(La Croix, 29.04.2011)

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Si les contours de ce rassemblement sont encore flous, la


stratgie, elle, est claire if the contours of this "gathering" are
still to be defined, the strategy is clear. (Le Monde,
29.03.2011)

This strategic competence makes her even more dangerous as an opponent (Shields 2013). However if
being strategic is usually a quality for politicians, in
Marine Le Pens case this is not so clear. Indeed insisting in depicting her as a potential threat may well be a
tactic aimed to instill fear in the center or center-right
voters: do not take a chance to vote for Le Pen in the
first round because the FN may well be the winner
against the two favorites, Hollande and Sarkozy. In
2002 her father J.-M. Le Pen, known for his racist
views and Holocaust denial statements, wan surprisingly the first round against the socialist L. Jospin; he
then found himself in the second round against J.
Chirac for the presidency. The latter got 80% of the
vote, so frightened were the French voters to put into
power a well-known extreme-right activist.
As for her vision it is noted more frequently than is M.
Aubrys, but the context is mitigated: she writes a
livre boussole pour dtailler sa vision et son projet (a
guide book to outline her vision and her project).
The credibility of the Front National leader is embedded in an extreme and clearly negative context, since
in most occurrences she is presented as striving to be
credible: La candidate d'extrme droite, en qute de crdibilit the far-right candidate in search of credibility.
The opposite is found for M. Aubry, whose competence is focused on her legitimacy:
Ils jugent qu'elle a la lgitimit pour rassembler tous les socialistes (They consider her to have the legitimacy required to
unite all the socialists, and especially the left). (Le Monde,
30.03.2011)
Elle dispose de la lgitimit institutionnelle (she has institutional
legitimacy). (Le Monde, 20.05.2011)
Bernard Soulage relve la lgitimit institutionnelle de la premire secrtaire (Bernard Soulage notes the "institutional legitimacy of the first secretary"). (Le Monde, 24.05. 2011)
Martine Aubry a jou pleinement auprs des socialistes de sa lgitimit institutionnelle. (Martine Aubry has used her institutional
legitimacy to good effect with the socialists). (Le Monde,
29.06.2011)

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BAIDER, Fabienne: Hybrid strategic identities as gendered resources in French politics (Martine Aubry and Marine Le Pen).

Moreover the terms representing leadership (a


stateswoman) are extremely positive:
C'est la marque d'une femme d'Etat (this is the mark of a stateswoman). (Le Monde, 31.05.2011)
C'est une femme d'Etat proche des gens. (She is a stateswoman
close to the people). (Le Monde, 24.05.2011)

This was not true for Marine le Pen, for whom the
mentions of leader merely noted her function as a
leader of the party but not as a future stateswoman.
To sum up this section, on the one hand, Marine Le
Pen is acknowledged as a strategist and a woman with a
vision, but she is not seen as credible and no other
party wants to be part of her vision. On the other
hand, Martine Aubry is legitimate and seen as a real

stateswoman, but she has neither a real vision, nor the


strategic ability that would make her a truly legitimate
leader.
Ambiguous competency thus contributes to the hybridity characterizing their personas in these journalistic
discourses. They are presented as unintelligible (Butler
1995, inter alia) to voters. In Butler`s theory cultural
intelligibility is what gives access to personhood, it is a
means by which a person becomes a subject. Therefore, making a political persona unintelligible is a way
to keep him/her outside the domain and field of politics. Indeed to find that you are unintelligible () is
to find that your language is hollow, that no recognition
is forthcoming because the norms by which recognition takes
place are not in your favor (Butler 2004, p. 30, our italics). Since the norms favor male politicians, as has been
demonstrated many times, Martine Aubry and Marine
Le Pen may still have a long way to go.

7. Conclusion: periperformativity and journalistic discourse


West and Zimmerman (1987), following Goffmans
conclusions (1959), deconstructed femininity and
masculinity into moments of attribution and iteration.
However, if a gendered identity is a continual social
process of doing masculinity and femininity, gender
does not precede but, rather, follows from practice,
instantiated in a persons everyday behavior and
micro-actions (Butler 1995). As we saw in this study,
each mention of a name in a discourse is an
opportunity to construct that entity as feminine or
masculine. Moreover, Sedgwick has suggested that
we must take into account what she calls
periperformativity (2003, pp. 67-91), i.e., societys
contribution to the success or failure of a speech act,
the success of failure of being constructed,
interpreted as feminine / masculine at the right time,
in the right place. As we know, repetitive
performativities are not interpreted in the same way
according to the place and the time they are
exhibited, according to who exhibits them and
according to who interprets them. The discursive
strategies (which are the focus of this paper) may be a
good example of this periperformativity as carried

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out by journalists and by political advisers. Indeed,


we have witnessed the construction of a typical
double bind: societies with their norms and
expectations create an impasse in which women are
dammed if they do (a masculine style is not natural)
and they are dammed if they dont (a feminine style is
inappropriate in politics). Indeed, even if women
politicians are able to work differently and better
because of a different experience, even if they try to
be different and against hegemonic conventions, they
will be interpreted by those same conventions and
ideologies, notwithstanding the unplanned effects of
the performance act and the contingencies to be taken
into consideration (Lloyd, 1999). Newspaper articles
and journalistic comments are interpretative acts and
doing so are sites of exerting power; the emergence
of forums and blogs as other sites of
(re)interpretation may hopefully subvert the
mainstream meaning construction acts: this may be
the reason why the Front national like many other
extreme right parties is extremely well represented
in political forums and in the computer mediated
communication in general.

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